NEW YORK – A man who punched a woman in the face over a parking spot was convicted Tuesday of a misdemeanor assault charge but cleared of a more serious felony in his second trial over a clash that left her brain-damaged.
Oscar Fuller, 36, could face up to a year in jail at a June 18 sentencing. Still, he felt vindicated by his acquittal on the felony assault charge, defense lawyer Thomas Kenniff said after the verdict.
"My client feels like he had his day in court and he stood by his innocence," Kenniff said.
Six months after a previous jury deadlocked, another panel deliberated for about a day before deciding a case that stood out as an extreme even for a city known for space crunches and competitiveness.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. called it shameful that "a petty argument over a parking space could escalate into physical violence." The Los Angeles Times called the case an illustration of "the weightiness of New York City's parking woes."
Fuller, however, said he struck out in self-defense. The electrician acknowledged punching Lana Rosas in the face during their February 2011 confrontation in downtown Manhattan. He was pulling into a space that she was trying to save for her boyfriend.
The blow knocked Rosas unconscious and off her feet. Then 25, she hit her head on the ground, was in a coma for a time and is still undergoing rehabilitation, prosecutors said.
Fuller, meanwhile, drove off. Witnesses got his license-plate number, and he was arrested a few days later.
"This was a brutal and unjustified act of rage," Vance said in a statement Tuesday.
Fuller said he punched Rosas after she ran up to him and hit him first. He never foresaw or intended the serious injuries Rosas suffered, Kenniff said.
"He didn't act with any sort of intent to harm anyone in any fashion, and whatever physicality he used was in response to the assault that he was enduring from Ms. Rosas," the attorney said.
Intent was a key question in the trial, as the felony assault charge required prosecutors to prove Fuller meant to cause Rosas serious physical injury. The first jury declared an impasse after asking repeatedly to be re-read legal instructions about the intent issue.
The first jury considered only the felony charge, which carried the potential for seven years in prison. But the second jury was also allowed to weigh a misdemeanor assault charge.
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